Olfactory Language and Cognition Amongst Hunter-Gatherer Communities

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room LL21E (San Jose Convention Center)
Asifa Majid, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Olfactory naming is a challenge for the ordinary person. English speakers grapple to name everyday odors. But for speakers of Jahai (living in the Malay Peninsula), smells are named with apparent ease. These speakers choose one of a dozen or so dedicated verbs no describe smells. In experiments, Jahai speakers name odors faster, with more consistency, and with differential emotional reactivity than Westerners. This shows that the problem of olfactory naming is, at least in part, cultural.